Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Appeals Court: state grants to Johnson and Wales ok

The N.C. Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a challenge filed by Jason Saine and Donald Reid to state aid for Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte. Reid, former Charlotte city council member, had asked the courts to make the university refund millions of dollars the state gave it for moving to Charlotte.  Former House Speaker Jim Black and former Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight had promised the university to seek millions if the school would come to North Carolina.

A three-judge panel affirmed a 2010 trial court ruling dismissing the argument that the state had violated the N.C. Constitution on a number of occasions by giving tax funds to Johnson and Wales.  The state had allocated $7.5 million in several different appropriations from the One North Carolina Fund for Johnson and Wales, a private nonprofit university which had moved to Charlotte to provide instruction in cooking and other skills. 

Saine and Reid had argued, among other things, that the appropriations violated the Constitution because there was a private financial benefit that represented  an exclusive and separate emolument. They also argued that the appropriations did not constitute a valid public purpose and asked that any other grants to the university be declared unconstitutional. Judge Michael Morgan of Wake Superior Court rejected the claims in March 2010 after a hearing on the claims.

Court of Appeals Judge Robert Hunter of Marion, writing for the panel which included Chief Judge John Martin and Judge Cressie Thigpen, said there was a direct connection between education and economic prosperity of the state and that the appropriations furthered the goal of an improved economy, as allowed by the N.C. Supreme Court in prior cases. He wrote that the constitutional challenges were "without merit."

A copy of the decision can be found online here.

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